Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RWANDA: Introducing Team Softchoice Cares 2009

The 2009 Softchoice Cares Board is ecstatic to announce that the team will have the opportunity to build the foundation for a successful community in rural Rwanda this upcoming October.

The 2009 Softchoice Cares volunteer mission is to complete the building of a new facility and teach computer skills in Gashora, Rwanda. Gashora is a town of approximately 5,500 residents in the Bugesera District and it is roughly 45 minutes from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The primary employers in Gashora are the local government and the army barracks and there is a small commercial centre with a variety of shops. However by far the majority of residents are subsistence farmers who earn about 5000 francs (Can. $10.00) per week. It’s difficult to determine the unemployment rate, but it’s estimated around 60 – 80%. The lab we will be helping to set up is in one classroom of about 5 rooms in a new wing of the local school. In total there are about 20 classrooms serving over 1000 children.

Quick Facts:
Population 7,954,013
Capital City: Kigali
Size in Area 26,338 km² (Roughly the Size of Maryland)
Internet Users: 25,000

Partnering with Developing World Connections (, the team will spend the majority of two weeks in teams of two which will simultaneously teach children how to use computers and help build a new facility. We have picked Gashora because it is in a rural area of Rwanda that will not be part of the Rwanda’s Ministry of Education’s ambitious Information and Communication Technology campaign that focuses on urban areas. We feel strongly that this facility will help to create an equal opportunity for children in the rural community like Gashora, compared to the urban centers like Kigali that will benefit from the Governments work. This will ensure that rural areas stay above the poverty line.
A program like this will literally change the lives of children, families and educators in Gashora. Those who learn the skills will have opportunities to attend university and eventually get well paying work in Kigali. They will also have improved opportunities to develop their own enterprises in Gashora and provide advanced levels of service and learning to their community. This would not have been dreamt of a year ago and would make Gashora a go-to community for others from the Bugesera district.
As great as the benefit of computer education is for the people of Rwanda, the benefit of international visitors reaching out a hand and opening relationships may be even greater. This could be more so in Rwanda than in most countries because of the dual swords of national shame they carry over the genocide and the international community’s failure to respond when the need was so great.
This volunteer mission is poised to be successful for a few reasons; the experience and ability to execute of the individuals and organizations involved and the sustainability of the project. The Softchoice Cares personnel bring passion, skills in education and information technology and strong teamwork to the job on the ground at Gashora. Building Bridges Rwanda will provide the local support necessary to ensure that the team has everything they need to execute properly on the ground and help in local communication. Developing World Connections brings with them a history of organizing successful projects focused primarily on building education facilities.
In today’s difficult economic climate, many organizations have either slimmed down their philanthropic efforts or have terminated them completely. This reality has had quite an impact on programs in the developing world that provide hope for a better life. Softchoice continues to be a leader in the business community by continuing to extend its hand to those in need. Recognizing the current business climate, Softchoice has also been able to continue to give back in a responsible manner. This mission will be partly subsidized by personal as well as charitable sponsorship. In addition, the board was able to plan this important mission in the most cost effective way possible. This all results in Softchoice being able to continue to give back in a way that can make us all proud. We are getting it done differently in 2009.

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